Friday, June 21, 2013

Hundreds rally against Morsy at defence ministry
Hundreds of people have staged a protest outside Defence Ministry headquarters in Cairo’s Abbasseya neighborhood Friday afternoon demanding President Mohamed Morsy step down. Controversial talk show host Tawfiq Okasha, owner of the privately-owned Al-Faraeen satellite channel, has reportedly called for the demonstration against the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood. Local media reports that the Revolutionary Youth Union also called for a sit-in at the ministry until Morsy cedes to their demands. The state-run Al-Akhbar newspaper reported on its website that sympathizers with ousted President Hosni Mubarak also joined the protest, chanting slogans demanding the army join opposition calls for early presidential elections ahead of the planned 30 June protests. Al-Akhbar said that military police intensified its presence in the area.

Report: US began training Syrian rebels in 2012

CIA agents and special operations troops have trained the rebels in anti-tank and antiaircraft weaponry in Jordan and Turkey.
CIA operatives and U.S. special operations troops have been secretly training Syrian rebels with anti-tank and antiaircraft weapons since late last year, months before President Obama approved plans to begin directly arming them, according to U.S. officials and rebel commanders. The covert U.S. training at bases in Jordan and Turkey, along with Obama's decision this month to supply arms and ammunition to the rebels, has raised hope among the beleaguered Syrian opposition that Washington ultimately will provide heavier weapons as well. So far, the rebels say they lack the weapons they need to regain the offensive in the country's bitter civil war. The tightly constrained U.S. effort reflects Obama's continuing doubts about being drawn into a conflict that has already killed more than 100,000 people and his administration's fear that Islamic militants now leading the war against President Bashar Assad could gain control of advanced U.S. weaponry. The training has involved fighters from the Free Syrian Army, a loose confederation of rebel groups that the Obama administration has promised to back with expanded military assistance, said a U.S. official, who discussed the effort anonymously because he was not authorized to disclose details. The number of rebels given U.S. instruction in Jordan and Turkey could not be determined, but in Jordan, the training involves 20 to 45 insurgents at a time, a rebel commander said. U.S. special operations teams selected the trainees over the last year when the U.S. military set up regional supply lines to provide the rebels with nonlethal assistance, including uniforms, radios and medical aid. The two-week courses include training with Russian-designed 14.5-millimeter antitank rifles, anti-tank missiles and 23-millimeter antiaircraft weapons, according to a rebel commander in the Syrian province of Dara who helps oversee weapons acquisitions and who asked that his name not be used because the program is secret. The training began in November at a new American base in the desert in southwestern Jordan, he said. So far, about 100 rebels from Dara have attended four courses, and rebels from Damascus, the Syrian capital, have attended three, he said. "Those from the CIA, we would sit and talk with them during breaks from training, and afterward they would try to get information on the situation" in Syria, he said. The rebels were promised enough armor-piercing anti-tank weapons and other arms to gain a military advantage over Assad's better-equipped army and security forces, the Dara commander said. But arms shipments from Qatar, Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries, provided with assent from the Americans, took months to arrive and included less than the rebels had expected. Since last year, the weapons sent through the Dara rebel military council have included four or five Russian-made heavy Concourse antitank missiles, 18 14.5-millimeter guns mounted on the backs of pickup trucks and 30 82-millimeter recoil-less rifles. The weapons are all Soviet or Russian models but manufactured in other countries, the commander said. Such weapons allow the rebels to easily use captured munitions from the Syrian army, which has a large arsenal of Russian and Soviet arms. "I'm telling you, this amount of weapons, once they are spread across the province [of Dara], is considered nothing," the commander said. "We need more than this to tip the balance or for there to even be a balance of power." U.S. officials said the Obama administration and its allies might supply anti-tank weapons to help the rebels destroy armored vehicles used by Assad's forces. They are less likely to provide portable antiaircraft missiles, which the rebels say they need to fight back against Assad's helicopters and warplanes. U.S. officials fear those missiles would fall into the hands of the largest of the Islamist militias in the rebel coalition, Al Nusra Front, which the U.S. regards as an Al Qaeda ally. Secretary of State John F. Kerry headed to Qatar on Friday and will talk with other governments backing the rebels. A senior State Department official told reporters that the talks would include discussions about coordinating deliveries of military aid. Asked Friday about the CIA training, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said the U.S. had increased its aid to the rebels in the Free Syrian Army, but he refused to provide details. "We have stepped up our assistance, but I cannot inventory for you all the elements of that assistance," Carney said,. "We have provided and will continue to provide substantial assistance to the Syrian opposition, as well as the Supreme Military Council." The council is the military arm of an umbrella group that represents more moderate rebel factions, including the Free Syrian Army. CIA officials declined to comment on the secret training programs, which was being done covertly in part because of U.S. legal concerns about publicly arming the rebels, which would constitute an act of war against the Assad government. Other U.S. officials confirmed the training, but disputed some of the details provided by rebel commanders. Brig. Gen. Yahya Bittar, who defected as a fighter pilot from Assad's air force last year and is head of intelligence for the Free Syrian Army, said training for the last month or so had taken place in Jordan. The training, conducted by American, Jordanian and French operatives, involves rockets and anti-tank and antiaircraft weaponry, he said. Between 80 and 100 rebels from all over Syria have gone through the courses in the last month, he said, and training is continuing. Graduates are sent back across the border to rejoin the battle. Bittar said sufficient weapons had yet to arrive for the rebel forces and that the Americans had not yet told them when they could expect to receive additional arms. "Just promises, just promises," he said.

Citizens of Former Soviet Republics Remain Glum About Job Prospects - Study

Citizens of the former Soviet Union were among the most pessimistic in the world about their job prospects last year, even though the number who thought it was a good time to find work rose more than in any other region of the world, a study released Friday by the Gallup polling organization found. “The former Soviet Union, as a region, saw the largest increase last year in the percentage of adults saying it was a good time to find work, with 27 percent saying this, up four points from last year,” the report says. But, as in the rest of the world, a majority of adults in former Soviet republics were pessimistic that they would be able to find a job in 2012. In fact, 55 percent of adults in the ex-USSR said last year was a bad time to find work in the region. In Russia, pessimism about job opportunities was slightly lower than the global average, with 53 percent of Russian adults saying 2012 was not a good time to find work at home and 26 percent saying they were optimistic about their job prospects, up four points from 2011. Tajikistan and Turkmenistan were bright spots for job-outlook optimists with 58 percent and 57 percent respectively saying they thought 2012 was a good time to find work at home. For Turkmen job-seekers, “historically high oil prices last year likely contributed to bright employment prospects,” Gallup said in its report. The report did not go into detail about Tajik job-seekers’ optimism. The landlocked central Asian country has one of the lowest GDPs per capita of any of the former Soviet republics, and many Tajiks go to Russia to work, sending remittances back home to support their families, according to the CIA World Factbook. In Moldova, where the economy depends heavily on agriculture and almost all energy supplies have to be imported, mostly from Russia and Ukraine, an overwhelming majority of adults – 90 percent – were pessimistic about finding work at home. Taken as a whole, the former Soviet Union ranked below Sub-Saharan Africa in terms of job optimism, and just above the Middle East and North Africa. Adults in the Americas were the most optimistic about finding a job in their region – 40 percent thought 2012 was a good time to do so – followed by Asians (35 percent), and sub-Saharan Africans at 32 percent. In the Middle East and North Africa, job optimism was at the same level as in the former Soviet Union but the percentage of adults who were pessimistic about finding a job was 11 percentage points higher, at 66 percent compared to 55 percent in the ex-USSR. At rock-bottom on the job optimism scale was Europe, where just 17 percent of adults said 2012 was a good time to find work in their region. The outlook was particularly grim in Greece, were only one percent of adults polled said they were optimistic about their job prospects at home in 2012. Unemployment is hovering near 27 percent in Greece, where nearly two-thirds of young people are out of work as the country struggles through a sixth year of recession.

Explosion after firing near imambargah in Karachi kills four

The Express Tribune
At least four people were killed and eight others, including police officials, were injured as unknown men opened firing at an Imambargah in Bilal Colony area of Korangi, Karachi, Express News reported. An explosion followed soon afterwards. The explosion occurred near Imambargah, Hyderi shortly after a bout of firing killed three men in the same area. The injured are now being taken to Jinnah Hospital, reported Express News correspondent Nadeem Ahmed. The area has been cordoned off. Initial reports suggest that the explosion was caused by a hand grenade. Bomb Disposal Squad reached the site of the explosion and investigations are underway.

The remarkable consistency of President Obama’s job approval numbers

By Chris Cillizza
Here’s the truth about President Obama’s job approval numbers: They don’t move around all that much. New numbers from Pew Research Center tell that story. Forty nine percent of respondents approved of the job President Obama while 43 percent disapproved. Those numbers are remarkably unchanged from where Obama stood in a January Pew poll despite the fact that the past five and a half months have seen the failure of the White House’s attempt to change gun laws, the IRS scandal, evidence of an improving economy, the NSA revelations and plenty of other “major” news events. The Pew numbers are broadly in keeping with the large majority of polling data released over the last few months including Washington Post-ABC News surveys. Here’s a look at Obama’s job approval in Post-ABC polling since 2009: Since mid-2011, Obama’s job numbers have fluctuated marginally (if at all), with the lone exception being a post 2012 re-election bid bump he received in Post-ABC polling — and virtually every other poll too. The truth is that for every poll that shows significant fluctuation in Obama’s job approval numbers — like the CNN survey earlier this week that showed Obama down to 45 percent approval – there are three (or more) that show no real movement. And, there’s a very simple explanation for why Obama’s numbers don’t move all that much. It’s partisanship. Check out these numbers from Post-ABC polling on Obama’s job approval by party. At least 80 percent of Republicans disapprove of the job President Obama is doing. At least 80 percent of Democrats approve of it. Independents are almost evenly split on the question. That’s true regardless of any external events — small or large. Remember how the capture and killing of Osama bin Laden would fundamentally alter how people viewed President Obama? That lasted about a week. Or how the IRS scandal would doom Obama’s second term approval ratings? Not so much — or at least not yet. What the numbers tell us is that anyone with even an inkling of partisanship has been pushed into one of the two parties at this point. Of the ten most polarized years — defined by the difference in presidential approval between adherents of the two parties — in history nine of them have come during the presidencies of George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Minds are made up — both for and against President Obama. His polling ceiling and floor are very defined and, at least based on the last few years, largely unaffected by external circumstances. Given all of that, large-scale changes in how the public perceives Obama is very, very unlikely — now or at any time until he leaves office in early 2017.

HRW: 'No Space for Political Dissent' in Bahrain
New laws and lengthy jail terms for activists have put freedom of association in Bahrain under severe threat, according to a report from Human Rights Watch. “The Bahraini authorities are going to great lengths to prevent ordinary Bahraini citizens from freely expressing themselves and associating with others on the streets of Bahrain to press for change," said Human Rights Watch Britain director David Mepham. The 87-page report published Thursday condemns what Human Rights Watch says are major restraints on the Freedom of Association in Bahrain. It highlights the draft law on civil organizations and institutions, which was approved by the government last year. The report says the provisions are much more restrictive than an earlier draft written in 2007 - and in many respects worse than the 1989 law, which is in effect today. The campaign group says the draft, which was sent to parliament this January, would allow Bahraini authorities to deny an organization’s right to register if they think society as a whole “does not need its services.” Mepham says the report criticizes Bahraini authorities for using the law to dissolve organizations and ban public gatherings. “There is a track record over the last decade or more of the Bahraini authorities being unwilling to allow peaceful dissent and peaceful criticism," he said. "And that in many ways has been stepped up in the last two years since the popular uprisings began in 2011.” Thousands were arrested and dozens died during the crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrations in Bahrain that began in February 2011.
U.S. criticism
A U.S. State Department report released in April also criticized the rights situation in Bahrain. It voiced concern over citizens' inability to change their government peacefully, and the arrest and detention of protesters on vague charges, which it said sometimes leads to their torture in detention. The State Department also criticized the lack of due process in trials of political and human rights activists. Attempts by VOA to reach Bahraini authorities for comment on Thursday’s report were unsuccessful. But in response to the U.S. State Department report in April, the kingdom said it has a “full commitment to comply with the human rights principles and standards in confronting terror, which targets Bahrain and innocent civilians."
Mepham disagrees.
“Nobody at the senior level in the Bahraini security forces, the Bahraini defense forces, or the Bahraini police has been held to account for their role in the torture, death, imprisonment and beating of hundreds of people that took place throughout 2011. So there is a massive failure in terms of accountability.” Mepham says Bahrain’s international allies, including Britain and the United States, should put more pressure on Bahrain to improve its human rights record. The European Union’s High Representative Catherine Ashton and other EU ministers are to meet with the Gulf Cooperation Council in Bahrain later this month.

Swiss authorities refuse to reopen graft probes into Zardari, Benazir

Swiss prosecutors announced Friday that they had refused to reopen a probe into alleged corruption in the 1990s by current Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and his late wife former prime minister Benazir Bhutto. Prosecutors in Geneva said that the decision was taken on February 4 this year, and that they had only opted to make it public as a result of street protests in Pakistan. They declined to comment in detail, but the Swiss news portal published photographs of anti-Zardari protestors burning Switzerland’s flag at a rally in Pakistan. Zardari and Bhutto were alleged to have siphoned $12 million in state cash in the 1990s, when he was a government minister and she was premier. Bhutto lost office in 1996, and a year later Pakistan made a formal request for Swiss legal help in a probe of the couple and Bhutto’s mother Nusrat Bhutto. Bhutto went into self-imposed exile in the United Arab Emirates in 1997, returning in 2007, only to be assassinated in a bomb attack on an election rally the same year. Weeks before Bhutto was killed, Pakistan had withdrawn its request for help from the Swiss, and Geneva investigators formally closed their side of the probe in 2008. Zardari, meanwhile, was arrested in Pakistan on graft charges after his wife’s government fell, before being freed in 2004, going into exile in the United Arab Emirates, then returning after Bhutto’s death. He was elected president in 2008. In November 2012, however, Pakistan’s government renewed its request for Swiss legal assistance after being ordered to do so by its own supreme court. Geneva prosecutors underlined Friday that no new evidence had emerged since the case was dropped in 2008, meaning they could not reopen the investigation. In addition, the fact that the alleged offences took place more than 15 years ago meant that the statute of limitations had expired, they said. They also complained about mixed messages from Pakistan. Just a month after filing the renewed request, Pakistan sent them a letter stating that the call for a revived probe was linked to domestic politics and that there was no need to heed it. That amounted to abuse of the legal system, prosecutors said.

Foreign attachés wear red in Ankara, to support Gezi in absence of Turkish gov’t officials

Spouses of some attachés as well as some female attachés from various embassies in Ankara displayed their support for the Gezi protests by wearing red dresses while attending the annual reception of the British Embassy. The event was hosted by British Ambassador to Turkey David Reddaway to celebrate the birthday of Queen Elizabeth II and the United Kingdom Armed Forces Day, held on June 20, and was not attended by any officials from the government.
“We wanted to support the Turkish people in the Gezi Park events,” the ladies in red said while posing for the photographers, making a reference to a lady wearing a red dress who became a symbol of the protests after she was photographed being exposed to tear gas in the early days of the protests in Gezi Park, marking the disproportionate police force used to crush the protests. “Outside these lovely gardens, these are challenging times.” Reddaway, meanwhile, said as he referred to Gezi protests in his welcoming speech. “As you know, we and Turkey’s many other friends have been distressed by the violence and injuries we have seen in Turkey’s streets in recent weeks. We hope to see an outcome which shows the world that Turkey is a democracy in which people of diverse views and backgrounds can gather to express their views peacefully and with dignity within the framework of the law,” Reddaway said. Remarkably, no officials from the government attended the reception, an exceptional case considering the history of the event, -- particularly the last decade since the bilateral relations between the EU and now-full membership candidate Turkey have become institutionalized in the first half of 2000s. “I would like to thank the Europe Minister for his kind greetings and his apology that he cannot be with us in person this evening because of unavoidable commitments in Istanbul,” Reddaway elaborated on this point, as EU Minister Egemen Bağış is known to have traditionally attended the event in the past years. While the fate of the relationship between the EU and Turkey is being questioned since Germany and the Netherlands have been objecting to the opening of a new chapter as planned on June 26, Reddaway urged Turkey to pursue the membership route. “We urge our Turkish friends to persist with those reforms as a Turkish process for Turkey’s benefit. We stand ready to work with you,” he said.

Putin: 600 Russians, Europeans Fight for Syrian Rebels

At least 600 people from Russia and Europe are fighting for the rebels in Syria, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Friday at a plenary meeting of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum.
He did not cite a source for the figure. Russia’s Federal Security Service in May said some 200 mercenaries from the former Soviet Union and Europe were fighting in the civil war. Putin reiterated Russia’s position that arming the rebels in Syria would have an unpredictable effect, noting that a key group in the Syrian opposition, Jabhat al-Nusra, had been designated by the United States as a terrorist organization linked to al-Qaida. “Why should weapons be supplied to illegal organizations in Syria whose composition is not fully clear to us?” Putin told the forum. “How can weapons be supplied to these oppositionists? Where will they [these weapons] end up as a result? What role will they play?”

One in three women suffers domestic violence: WHO
About a third of women worldwide have been physically or sexually assaulted by a former or current partner, according to the first major review of violence against women. In a series of papers released on Thursday by the World Health Organization and others, experts estimated nearly 40 percent of women killed worldwide were slain by an intimate partner and that being assaulted by a partner was the most common kind of violence experienced by women. "Violence against women is a global health problem of epidemic proportions," WHO director-general Dr Margaret Chan said in a statement. WHO defined physical violence as being slapped, pushed, punched, choked or being attacked with a weapon. Sexual violence was defined as being physically forced to have sex, having sex because you were afraid of what your partner might do and being compelled to do something sexual that was humiliating or degrading. The report also examined rates of sexual violence against women by someone other than a partner and found about 7 percent of women worldwide had previously been a victim. In conjunction with the report, WHO issued guidelines for authorities to spot problems earlier and said all health workers should be trained to recognize when women may be at risk and how to respond appropriately. Globally, the WHO review found 30 percent of women are affected by domestic or sexual violence by a partner. The report was based largely on studies from 1983 to 2010. According to the United Nations, more than 600 million women live in countries where domestic violence is not considered a crime. The rate of domestic violence against women was highest in Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia, where 37 percent of women experienced physical or sexual violence from a partner at some point in their lifetime. The rate was 30 percent in Latin and South America and 23 percent in North America. In Europe and Asia, it was 25 percent. Some experts said screening for domestic violence should be added to all levels of health care, such as obstetric clinics. "It's unlikely that someone would walk into an ER and disclose they've been assaulted," said Sheila Sprague of McMaster University in Canada, who has researched domestic violence in women at orthopedic clinics. She was not connected to the WHO report. "Over time, if women are coming into a fracture clinic or a pre-natal clinic, they may tell you they are suffering abuse if you ask," she said. For domestic violence figures, scientists analyzed information from 86 countries focusing on women over the age of 15. They also assessed studies from 56 countries on sexual violence by someone other than a partner, though they had no data from the Middle East. WHO experts then used modeling techniques to fill in the gaps and to come up with global estimates for the percentage of women who are victims of violence. In a related paper published online in the journal Lancet, researchers found more than 38 percent of slain women are killed by a former or current partner, six times higher than the rate of men killed by their partners. Heidi Stoeckl, one of the authors at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said the figures were likely to be an underestimate. She and colleagues found that globally, a woman's highest risk of murder was from a current or ex-partner. In countries like India, Stoeckl said things like "honor killings," where women are sometimes murdered over dowry disputes or perceived offenses like infidelity to protect the family's reputation, adds to the problem. She also noted that women and men are often slain by their partners for different reasons. "When a woman kills her male partner, it's usually out of self-defense because she has been abused," she said. "But when a woman is killed, it's often after she has left the relationship and the man is killing her out of jealousy or rage." Stoeckl said criminal justice authorities should intervene at an earlier stage. "When a woman is killed by a partner, she has often already had contact with the police," she said. Stoeckl said more protective measures should be in place for women from their partners, particularly when he or she has a history of violence and owns a gun. "There are enough signs that we should be watching out for that," she said. "We certainly should know if someone is potentially lethal and be able to do something about it."

Afghan, Pakistani Envoys Clash At UN
Afghan and Pakistani envoys have clashed at the United Nations Security Council over the presence of Islamist "terrorists" in their shared border region. "Terrorist sanctuaries continue to exist on Pakistan's soil and some elements continue to use terrorism as an instrument of foreign policy," Afghanistan's UN Ambassador Zahir Tanin told the Security Council on June 20. EXPLAINER: What Each Side Is Seeking From Doha Taliban Talks Pakistan's UN Ambassador Masood Khan rejected the Afghan statement, saying that "terrorists operate on both sides" of the border and many extremist attacks in Pakistan were planned in Afghanistan. The exchange came after Pakistan said it had played a role in persuading the Afghan Taliban to hold peace talks with the United States. But this move has angered Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who has denounced the Taliban’s opening of a new office in Qatar.

Salute To Benazir Bhutto !!!

The one Benazir!!!

BY: Mehr Tarar
Rest in peace, BB. Thank you for all you did for the supremacy of democracy without which our Pakistan floundered for many a decade “...But say all we done is show the world that democracy isn’t chaos. That there is a great, invisible strength in a people’s union. Say we’ve shown that a people can endure awful sacrifice and yet cohere. Mightn’t that save at least the idea of democracy to aspire to? Eventually to become worthy of?” As I watched, mesmerised, Daniel Day-Lewis as Abraham Lincoln, one of the greatest rulers in the history of the world, in Steven Spielberg’s masterpiece Lincoln, the pain in his voice, eyes anguished, simply reiterated the power of his simple words. About democracy. The power of democracy. At that moment, with unshed tears blocking my vision, goose-bumpy, I could only think of one person. And her struggle. Today, as I pray for her on her birth anniversary, I wish to thank her for the gift she gave Pakistan (with the help of the innumerable). A democratic process we can all be rightly proud of. Rest in peace, BB. Thank you for all you did for the supremacy of democracy without which our Pakistan floundered for many a decade. Benazir Bhutto. Her name is alive.
Her picture still adorns many a wall, many a heart. Her speeches are heard and revered, bringing a lump in the throat of all those who still struggle with the fact of her absence. Her memory still sparkles in the hearts of those who saw her relaxed in private, with the few she considered friends. Her love is missed by her children who feel her sudden, brutal exit from their lives every day, hoping to do her memory justice, replicating her principles in their actions. Her party gropes its way, clinging to all she said that fateful day in December 2007, deciphering guidelines. The children, the PPP, many people in general, all miss her, and she remains one of those whose image becomes brighter, her name more prominent, her absence more noteworthy with time. Today, June 21, 2013 would have her been her 60th birthday, and as I say a prayer for her, I am pained. Even in death, BB, you are more alive than many who wish to see your name entombed with you in that mausoleum in Garhi Khuda Baksh. But reality is different from assumptions and fantasies. You stand tall, as only you could, even in death. And I remember you, like I do on all June 21s, and on many other days. PPP is synonymous with the name Bhutto. That is its biggest strength. And that, unfortunately, became its Achilles’ heel, forcing its advancement to stutter, to routing of its power in Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan, leaving only the old faithful Sindh still standing with it. PPP lost its guide with Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. With BB they lost their guiding light. Reams can be said about PPP’s three erroneous tenures, with and without her. Not my place, not my expertise, not something I would do here. All I have are snippets of comments from people close to BB when I asked them to say a bit about Benazir Bhutto the person, the PPP leader, daughter, sister, mother. All spoke very simply, in pain, with no fancy words, all words echoing with one basic theme: how deeply loved and respected Benazir Bhutto was in her personal life. How the many she touched with a kind look, a warm hug, words of consolation, sympathetic tears, humble but 500-watt smiles, laughter, advice, remember her today. “I knew her in distress, in her fight against a dictator, in jail, in power, in opposition. I knew her when she chaired the party, and I was her deputy, she was the PM, I her cabinet minister, then she the PM again and I the Speaker. I was standing on her right when the bomb tore through her welcome rally on October 18, 2007, in Karachi, killing139 of the PPP’s supporters. BB was not just my leader, she was my guide. Through international diplomacy she managed to convince General Pervez Musharraf to doff his uniform, and it was partly her concerted efforts that brought Nawaz Sharif back to Pakistan. Rejecting the traditional political games of vengeance, she was instrumental in chalking out the Charter of Democracy with other parties. Hardworking, polite, the visionary woman believed in being humane to all those who toiled for Pakistan. On her visits to workers’ homes, she heard their grievances, and never made them feel alienated from the PPP. Hers and other leaders’ tribulations, incarcerations along with the workers, reiterated that PPP was one party whose leaders suffered with the people. Courageous, consistent, patient, focused...that is what BB was for as long as I knew a person, as a leader.” Thus reminisced former Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani when I asked him to share a few thoughts about BB. Mother of Bilawal, Bakhtawar and Aseefa, BB became a living example of how motherhood was not an impediment to becoming the most famous woman in the history of Pakistan. From her first election campaign when she was pregnant with Bilawal to raising her children alone in Dubai (her husband Asif Zardari was incarcerated in Pakistan), her devotion to her children and how they turned out was one of those things that made her a perfect mother. Supervising their studies, inculcating in them values of humility, empathy, kindness, patience, and living like normal people, she ensured — and anyone who knows the three Zardari-Bhutto children will vouch for that — that they were well-behaved, down to earth, without the least indication of their family name giving then undue importance in their normal existence. Daughter of veteran PPP politician, the late, much admired Iqbal Haider, Alizeh Haider, PPP MNA, emailed a few thoughts to me of what she remembered about BB: “I remember when Bilawal was born at Lady Duffrin Hospital; we went to visit BB with Abbu. The day after Bilawal’s birth. I remember a stack of files being brought into her room. Next day, I remember Abbu commenting on what an incredible woman BB is and how he has yet to come across someone as hardworking as her. By next day early morning, she had gone through all the files and had handwritten copious notes of instructions on each (many of which came to Abbu). She had a way of making people feel important by taking personal interest in their lives. Hers was a very human connection. It was not just a work-relationship. I have seen her cry for people...She was such a soft soul.” In BB we lost one of Pakistan’s best. We feel her absence as a leader, as a person, every day since she died. This is how all PPP leaders, workers, her friends remember her. As one of them reminisced about how real she was as a person, with no frills about her demeanour announcing her family legacy and her international stature as a politician. How she remembered to meet even her distant relatives on her visits to the US. How she took cabs to visit her friends. How she never cared about ‘brands’ and loved to shop retail. How her sense of humour was always sharp, and her easy laughter rang loud when she was amidst friends. How she waited in line for a table at a Washington restaurant, even as the maitre’d rushed to arrange a table, conscious of her stature known to many in Washington. Unlike most political leaders, BB was someone who bore no grudges, forgave all who wronged her, and despite being a victim of relentless attacks (justified or otherwise is a separate matter), none could accuse her of political victimisation of anyone. As per a veteran journalist, BB was without a vicious bone in her body, she was one leader who forgave her enemies, and all were treated fairly. Her interaction with her workers is the stuff of legends. Once she broke down reading a critical review of her brother, Mir Murtaza Bhutto’s life, in some paper. His killing shattered her, as she was still trying to come to terms with the murders of her father, Mr Bhutto in 1979, and brother Mir Shahnawaz in 1985. “Two stitches could have saved his life,” she lamented about his death, and how traumatising it was for her as a sister, and as the PM of Pakistan that September 1996 day in Karachi. I remember her struggle against General Zia in the 1980s, the blood on her mother, Begum Nusrat Bhutto’ s face, co-chairperson of PPP. I remember the lashings, beatings, jailing of hundreds of PPP and MRD supporters. I remember her imprisonment, and her suffering. I remember her exile. I remember her triumphant return to Pakistan on April 10, 1986. I remember her swearing-in as the youngest premier of Pakistan, the first Muslim woman premier anywhere, on December 2, 1988. I remember her second oath on October 19, 1993. I remember her self-imposed exile in 1997. I remember her return on October 18, 2007. I remember the look on her face after her welcome rally was bombed that day. I remember her in the blue jora (suit) on December 27, 2007, the day she was to be seen for the last time. I remember the tears in her eyes when she spoke about the past and the future. I remember how she waved to people from the roof of her SUV, displaying in that last minute, that last smile of her life how brave she was, how she was for the people always.
Rest in peace, Benazir Bhutto... I will remember you. Always...
The writer is an Assistant Editor at Daily Times.

Balochistan govt should control FC

The Express Tribune
Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Senator Raza Rabbani on Wednesday said he was explicit in his remarks while suggesting that establishment and law enforcing agencies should be brought under civilian control if the improvement of law and order was desired in Balochistan. “Is it not the responsibility of the provincial government that after the 18th Amendment to the Constitution it should bring Frontier Constabulary under its supervision?” Rabbani said. “Security forces should work under the guidance of provincial government,” he said speaking at a joint press conference along with Balochistan Chief Minister Dr Abdul Malik. Appreciating Interior Minister Chaudhary Nisar’s concerns on the law and order issue, Rabani said the interior minister should be more precise in his actions. “We really welcome the recent statements of interior minister but he has to take some positive and specific measures,” Senator Rabbani said, adding that the PPP will support all the positive steps of the PML-N government. He said PPP will never leave their Baloch brethren in the lurch. He reminded that it was the PPP government that introduced the 18th Amendment which made an insertion in the Article 172 of the Constitution giving 50% share to the province of its natural resources. Earlier the federation used to get 100% share. Rabbani said that the shift of power from one section of the people to another has occurred after a long period of 400 years in this part of the land and this was the result of political and democratic process. Rabbani condemned the June 15 blasts in Quetta and said they shared the sorrows of the aggrieved families equally. Balochistan Chief Minister Dr Abdul Malik Baloch thanked Senator Raza Rabbani and praised his support for the government of Balochistan. Later, PPP leader Sadiq Umrani, Mir Maqbool Lehri and others met Rabbani in the CM House Quetta, and discussed the recent terrorist attacks in Quetta.

Pakistan: ''Tough days ahead: Back to the IMF''

THE inevitable has to happen. When? It may happen next month, or take another couple of months. The Nawaz Sharif government has to knock at the IMF’s doors to obtain another loan to pay back in the next 12 months what is already owed to the lender. Finance Minister Ishaq Dar hinted at this eventuality several times in recent weeks. There’s no harm in taking new loans to pay off old ones, he was quoted as having said during his first briefing on the state of the economy his party has inherited from the previous government. The new loan will not raise the country’s stock of foreign exchange, which is sufficient only to pay the import bill for another three months. Nonetheless, it will stop further depletion of reserves, halt temporarily the erosion in the rupee’s buying power and in the confidence of the business community, as well as pave the way for more dollars from other global lenders for large infrastructure projects. The government has already taken some steps in its first budget to meet conditions that the IMF is likely to attach to the new loan. These actions include a significant increase in tax revenues — although without expanding the base — a substantial reduction in electricity subsidies and liquidation of the power-sector debt. Some other measures like a hike in electricity prices and the reform of state-owned businesses including power generation and distribution entities to prepare them for sale will be taken in the next couple of years. All these actions will make the life of the common people more difficult because they are being asked to shoulder the chunk of the adjustments being made to make state finances more liquid. The wealthy have again been spared. The previous government had also instituted similar initiatives when it signed the standby arrangement loan with the Fund in November 2008 to stop the run-on on the banks and the rupee. However, it had dithered from taking tougher decisions to reform and restructure the tax system, state corporations, power businesses, etc under political pressure from its allies and the opposition led by the PML-N. Five years hence, the country may again be standing at the crossroads unless a comprehensive plan for the economy is devised that moves beyond the regular recourse to the IMF. For starters, the new government must take difficult decisions to restructure the economy for sustainable and early recovery without considering the political fallout from its opponents or from the powerful and wealthy.

PESHAWAR: Militants attack Shiites , 15 killed

Militants opened fire on a Shiite Muslim mosque where worshippers were gathering for Friday prayers, and then a suicide bomber detonated his explosives inside, killing 15 people in the latest attack aimed at the minority sect, police said. The attack hit the city of Peshawar, which is on the outskirts of Pakistan's tribal area, the main sanctuary for Islamic militants. They have targeted the city with scores of bombings in recent years. Three militants initiated the attack on the mosque, located inside a Shiite religious school, by firing on a policeman who was standing guard outside, said senior police official Shafiullah Khan. The policeman was critically wounded, Khan said. The militants then entered the mosque, where one of them detonated his suicide vest. The other two militants escaped, and police have launched a search operation to find them, Khan said. Fifteen people were killed and scores more wounded, he said. Zawar Hussain, who was inside the mosque when the attackers struck, said their firing set off panic among the roughly 300 worshippers inside. Then came the explosion. "After the blast, I fell down. People were crying for help," said Hussain. "I saw bodies and badly injured worshippers everywhere." Local TV video showed blood splattered on the floor and walls of the mosque. Broken glass littered the floor, and there were holes in the walls and ceiling caused by ball bearings packed in with the bomber's explosives to cause maximum damage and casualties. Relatives at a local hospital wailed in grief as rescue workers wheeled in wounded victims, their clothes soaked in blood. No one has claimed responsibility for the bombing. Radical Sunni Muslims who consider Shiites to be heretics have stepped up attacks against the minority sect in Pakistan over the last several years. On Saturday, a bomb that appeared to be targeting Shiites ripped through a bus carrying female university students in the southwest city of Quetta, killing 14 people. Militants then attacked a hospital where wounded victims were taken, killing more people. The militant group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi claimed responsibility for the attack in Quetta and could be suspected in Friday's Peshawar attack as well. The group has carried out many of the attacks against Shiites in Pakistan in recent years, especially in Baluchistan province, where Quetta is the capital. Although most Sunnis and Shiites live peacefully together in Pakistan, the country has a long history of sectarian attacks by radicals on both sides. In the 1980s and 1990s, Pakistan became the scene of a proxy war between mostly Shiite Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia, with both sides funneling money to sectarian groups that regularly targeted each other. Most of the attacks in recent years have been by radical Sunnis against Shiites. Last year was one of the most deadly for Shiites in Pakistan's history, according to Human Rights Watch, which said more than 400 Shiites were killed. This year is shaping up to be even deadlier. Two attacks carried out by Lashkar-e-Jhangvi in Quetta at the beginning of the year killed nearly 200 people. The sectarian violence presents a significant challenge to Pakistan's new government, which took power earlier this month under the leadership of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Human rights activists and members of the Shiite community criticized the last government for failing to do enough to stop the attacks. The new government has promised to do more, but some critics have questioned whether Sharif will follow through. His party has done little to crack down on Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and other militant groups in its home province of Punjab in central Pakistan, even though the party controlled the provincial government for the last five years.

60th Birthday of Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto

On the eve of the birthday of late Benazir Bhutto
, President Asif Ali Zardari visited her grave here on Thursday. He laid floral wreath, offered fateha and also recited verses from the Holy Quran. The President was accompanied by his younger daughter Aseefa Zardari. He also visited the grave of the founder of Pakistan People’s Party Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, laid floral wreath and offered fateha. He also visited the graves of Begum Nusrat Bhutto, Mir Murtaza Bhutto and Mir Shahnawaz Bhutto. On the occasion, he also visited the Mazar Complex and its various sections. Meanwhile, Pakistan Peoples Party patron-in-chief Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has congratulated the party workers inside and outside the country and the nation on the 60th birth anniversary of Shaheed Benazir Bhutto on June 21 (today). He called upon them to reiterate their commitment to the democratic values, she stood and fought for. In his message, he said that the birthday celebrations this year coincide with yet another triumph of democracy as the nation witnessed, for the first time ever, democratic transition in the country. “We are proud that a dream of her has come true.” According to Bilawal House, party’s chief said that it was a measure of her commitment to democratic ideals that when the people’s mandate was stolen and the party had only 17 members in the National Assembly, she decided to pursue the path of democratic struggle. She strengthened the parliament through active participation and refused to listen to those who wanted her to reject the parliament and adopt the path of agitation. A few weeks before her assassination she advised the people: “Please continue fight against extremism, dictatorship, poverty and ignorance.” Following in her footsteps, our democracy-loving people will make Pakistan a country of moderation and pluralism where ballot and not bullet will determine the ultimate choice of the people, he said. “Shaheed Benazir lives in the hearts of the people. Those who think that by removing her name from a national programme of poverty alleviation and women emancipation will make people forget her are gravely mistaken. They are doomed to fail in their efforts,” he added. On this occasion, let us also remember all our martyrs. Our brave soldiers and members of law-enforcement agencies have laid down their lives so that the nation lives without any fear. The martyrs of democracy have suffered incarceration, exile, torture and executions. We salute them all on this day, he said.

Remembering Benazir Bhutto

BY Iram Khalid
IT has been over five years that Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto was plucked out from the midst of the people by the forces of darkness, tyranny and terror. The tragic event still defies belief as it then did on that dark night of December 2007. While the terrorists who perpetrated this crime may have succeeded in brutally cutting her life short, her shadow looms large over the country and with the passage of time her personality now treads like a colossus. The light that she ignited with her blood has refused to extinguish and continues to glow the path for others. Benazir Bhutto began her political career fighting one dictator and ended it fighting another. She was an extremely courageous lady and devoted her life to the cause of democracy in Pakistan. Like her illustrious father, she had developed an inseparable bond with the downtrodden people of Pakistan particularly the better but oppressed half of the populace. Though she trotted the globe interacting with world leaders, nothing exhilarated her more than the company of her own compatriots especially the women with whom she had developed an inseparable bond. She was always at ease while sympathizing with the poor and the weak. She drew her strength from the oppressed and gave them hope and inspiration. After her eventful life, no public office remains too high for women of Pakistan. While many advanced democracies have yet to elect a female head of state or government, the privilege and honour of having first elected Prime Minister in Muslim world irreversibly belongs to Pakistan. She was a role model for women all over the world but in particular for millions of women who have been treated as chattels by ignorant and obscurantist men around them. Tragically this epitaph befits large number of women in our country. While the forces of darkness and terror continue to bomb and burn schools in order to stop girls from seeking education and vistas for decent life, Pakistani women have shown unmatchable resilience and courage in confronting this menace. There are hundreds of thousands of Malallas scattered all over our villages and mountains. They are the torch bearers of light ignited by Benazir Bhutto with her blood. While these obscurantist forces and their political interlocutors want to drag Pakistan into the darker and primitive ages, they will not succeed. They may terrorize the people, they may kill or maim them but they cannot win the hearts and minds of the people. They are not the future of this country. They are the last remnants of bigotry which has no place in Pakistan or indeed any part of the world. Nothing good comes without sacrifice and struggle. Millions of Pakistani women are part of this ongoing struggle. Every day millions of women step out of their homes with courage and dignity to redeem their rightful place in society. From Assemblies to higher echelons of public service, businesses and professions, villages and fields, factories and small cottages, the womenfolk are endeavouring to earn their living with dignity and help their families. They are flying F-16s as well as Boeings. Our brave young daughters are going to schools with the courage and valour of soldiers going to war. Those who stay home work all day to keep it going. All this is being done by these courageous women in the face of huge odds ranging from bombs to bullets, from paternalistic and condescending comments to indecent and hungry gaze from the ignorant chauvinists. Yet they refuse to surrender or give. While there is so much more to be done and the journey of liberation for women of Pakistan is long and full of pitfalls and will be painful but the future is bright and there is no going back to the primitive and darker ages. Our womenfolk will never be chattels again. For all this progress, the women of Pakistan are indebted to Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto Shaheed. She led the path and lived a remarkable life. She was a role model for millions of women all over the world. Her iconic personality shall continue to glow and inspire womenfolk for all times to come. We therefore cherish her short but meaningful life. We may not see the like of her again. She lived and died with a courage and grandeur befitting her extraordinary life. When she was fatally shot she uttered no famous last words but as Paul Johnson said of Lincoln, ‘After such a life who needs last words’. The author is a Member of Sindh Assembly from Pakistan Peoples Party

Bomber attacks Shiites in Pakistan, 10 killed

Associated Press
A suicide attacker opened fire on a Shiite Muslim mosque where worshippers were holding Friday prayers and then detonated his explosives inside, killing at least 10 people in the latest attack targeting the minority sect, police said. The attack in the city of Peshawar also wounded 25 people, said senior police officer Shafiullah Khan. It came as a prayer leader was delivering his Friday sermon, said Khan. Local TV video showed blood splattered on the floor and walls of the mosque. Broken glass littered the floor, and there were holes in the walls and ceiling caused by ball bearings packed in with the bomber's explosives to cause maximum damage. Relatives wailed in grief as rescue workers wheeled wounded victims, their clothes soaked in blood, into a local hospital. No one has claimed responsibility for the bombing. Radical Sunni Muslims who consider Shiites to be heretics have stepped up attacks against the minority sect in Pakistan over the last several years. On Saturday, a bomb that appeared to be targeting Shiites ripped through a bus carrying female university students in the southwest city of Quetta, killing 14 people. Militants then attacked a hospital where wounded victims were taken, killing more people. The militant group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi claimed responsibility for the attack in Quetta and could be suspected in the Peshawar attack as well. The group has carried out many of the attacks against Shiites in Pakistan in recent years, especially in Baluchistan province, where Quetta is the capital.